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What happened during the Red Line meltdown

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Local,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Updated, 2 p.m.: Metro still has no known cause of Wednesday's meltdown pinpointed but has been running trains at normal speeds without problems since about 12:30 p.m., Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.

The agency also has stationed power tech crews at the morning's two trouble spots, plus other locations, in case any problems occur during the evening commute, he said. Crews had been stuck for 15 to 20 minutes in traffic on Rockville Pike getting to the Tenleytown outage this morning, adding to the morning's delays.

He also said he misspoke when he told The Washington Examiner that a preliminary evacuation of the Tenleytown train was under way when they got word that power was restored. He said no one had actually evacuated the train at that point.

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Metro is still trying to determine what caused its train system to lose power in two spots along the Red Line during the Wednesday morning rush, trapping two trains with about 1,000 people aboard while delaying tens of thousands other commuters.

The transit system continued to have delays for the rest of the morning because it restricted train speeds to no more than 35 mph until just before 12:30 p.m. while it tried to pinpoint the problem. It was not immediately clear, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said, whether the power failure was internal problem with Metro equipment or an external problem with Pepco.

It also is not clear if the issue could affect the evening commute.

The first power problem occurred between NoMa and Rhode Island Avenue just before 8 a.m., according to Metro. An outbound train carrying 60 riders was trapped without power near the Brentwood rail yard, Stessel said.

After about 45 minutes, Metro and emergency officials helped the riders evacuate by walking along the trackbed to the nearby rail yard. The riders took shuttle buses to the Rhode Island stop, arriving by about 9:15 a.m.

Two passengers - a middle-aged man and an elderly woman - were taken to local hospitals to be checked out, Stessel said.

All other Red Line trains had to share a single track around the stopped train. Metro estimated 20- to 30-minute delays, but riders reported far longer delays.

Meanwhile, power also failed on the third rail of the same track further down the line, between Friendship Heights and Tenleytown, when an inbound eight-car train was trapped with some 800 to 1,000 people aboard, Stessel said. Riders were trapped for at least an hour.

Emergency responders opened the bulkhead doors between rail cars to let in air and were trying to decide whether to evacuate riders. They had just started to begin evacuating riders when they got word that power could be restored, so they turned riders back, then brought the train into the Tenleytown station around 10:15 a.m. No injuries were reported, Stessel said.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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